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A Matter of Impact: November updates from Google.org

COP26 wrapped up last week, and world leaders and industry experts headed home with commitments made to work together to further reduce emissions. You can learn more about Google’s commitments in this blog post.

Even for climate negotiators, transparent and trustworthy data around emissions can be hard to come by. Historically, there has been a limited push to build the kind of data sets and models needed to create a shared fact base for everyone. So we asked ourselves: How can we help advocates, citizens, governments and businesses take action on climate, faster?

We believe philanthropic dollars can play a critical role in creating important public goods, like transparent data sets and accessible digital tools, that might not otherwise exist. The world urgently needs a solid foundation of data and tools to monitor and verify our progress to make better decisions. That’s why much of our sustainability-related philanthropy is now focused on funding the creation and organization of data and the tools to make this data easily usable.

Three of our grantees launched tools around COP26 that are examples of this in action. Climate TRACE, the world’s first independent, comprehensive, near-real time greenhouse gas (GHG) monitoring platform uses large-scale data and AI models to provide neutral, accurate data for everyone. On the small business side, the work of Normative is hugely promising. They’re building out emissions estimates for SMBs and helping companies automatically compile detailed carbon reports so that they have actionable data to make better decisions around reducing their footprint. And for consumers, there’s Open Food Facts, an open-access food products database where users can see the eco-score of food products with a simple scan of the barcode from a mobile device.

We’re proud to support these organizations and look forward to more opportunities to combine philanthropic funding with technology to help everyone take action on climate change.

In case you missed it 

Here’s recent progress our grantees have made to close these data gaps.

  • BlueConduit is mapping out lead pipes across the U.S, for remediation.
  • Open Food Facts expanded to 50 countries — you’ll hear more on that from their co-founder Pierre Slamich below.
  • Normative debuted their Industry CO2 Insights carbon emissions accounting engine for small businesses at COP26.
  • Restor launched an open data platform built on Google Earth Engine that allows anyone to select an area around the world and analyze its restoration potential.
  • Dark Matter Labs launched their first version of TreesAI (Trees As Infrastructure), an open source platform to make it easy to map, monitor and forecast ecosystem services. The tool helps local authorities attract funds to develop and maintain urban nature-focused tools to fight climate change.
  • Climate TRACE, supported by $8 million in funding from Google.org and a team of Google.org Fellows, talked about their emissions tracking project in this video.

Hear from one of our grantees: Open Food Facts

Pierre Slamich is the co-founder of Open Food Facts, a collaborative effort to create a worldwide database of food products, thanks to mobile apps that also empower citizens to make more informed food choices. Last spring, Open Food Facts received a $1.3 million Google.org grant and support from a team of 11 Google.org Fellows.

A few words with a Google.org Fellow: Astrid Weber

Astrid Weber is a UX Manager on the Google Assistant team and currently working with Normative for a six month Fellowship.

Find food and give back with Google

In Google’s early days, around this time every year, a group of us would run to Costco and buy supplies to take to Bay Area food banks and pantries. It was a grassroots effort that was scrappy and meaningful — and it introduced a lot of Googlers to how rewarding giving back can be. It made me want to learn what more we could do to have an even bigger impact.

Inspired by our small and mighty food donation operation, I became a passionate supporter of Second Harvest Food Bank in Silicon Valley. And with guidance from food assistance experts, we established a dedicated team at Google in 2020 to work on tackling issues of food waste and food insecurity. Too many families are having to make difficult decisions no one should be forced to make: paying rent, bills, healthcare costs — or keeping food on their table. These challenges have only been compounded by the COVID-19 crisis, which has left more than 54 million working Americans struggling to find a meal. That’s nearly 16% of the country.

Google co-founder Larry Page once said "people are starving in the world not because we don't have enough food. It's because we're not yet organized to solve that problem." The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) reports that the world produces more than we need to feed every person on this planet. This isn’t a problem of supply, it’s a problem of distribution. And while solving this issue will require work from government, businesses, nonprofits and individuals working together, one way Google can help is to give people easy access to the information they need, when they need it.

Helping people find food pantries

When you look at Google Search trends, you can see that searches for "food bank" and “food pantry” spike during the month of November.

Food banks have always been critical to making sure people have regular access to nutritious food, but the ongoing pandemic has drastically increased their role as a crucial lifeline in so many communities. With the need for their services doubling or even tripling in some areas, we want to make sure that the people who need them most can find them.

That’s why we’ve launched a new initiative to expand the information about food banks and pantries in Google Search and Maps. We’ve augmented existing coverage with data from two initial nonprofit partners: WhyHunger and Hunger Free America, and we’ve added information to make sure people searching for food support can find what they need. These changes are being made directly in Google Maps so food banks, food pantries and soup kitchens can focus on what matters most — getting people food.

Still, some of these locations don’t yet have websites or phone numbers available on Google. So over the last two months, we've worked to update this information in Search and Maps, making 85,000 plus calls to verify local food banks and pantries. These efforts will continue through the holidays.

Mobile image showing Google Search results for the query “food pantry near me.”

We’ve also developed new Google Business Profile features specifically for food banks, pantries and soup kitchens. They can now provide details on their profile, like whether an appointment is needed, if there are eligibility requirements to receive food and what languages are spoken. They can also add information about their services, like whether prepared meals are available or if grocery delivery is an option. Additionally, pantries can specify whether they’re accepting new volunteers or soliciting food or monetary donations.

Helping people access benefits

Beyond working with food pantries, we’re also helping people use Search to find out how to get and use food assistance benefits.

Federal programs like the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP) feed more than 40 million Americans each year. We heard from users that information about these programs is often hard to find, especially for people who are using them for the first time. Today, if you search on Google for “SNAP benefits,” or the name of your local SNAP program, you’ll find direct links to each state’s eligibility guidelines and application process, including contact information for local food assistance agencies.

Mobile image showing Google Search results for the query “SNAP benefits,” with details about program eligibility and links to apply for local programs.

Once approved, many people use Electronic Benefits Transfer cards (also known as EBT) to pay for their groceries. Now, if you search for “grocery stores that accept EBT” you can easily find USDA-approved stores that accept this form of payment — saving time and potential confusion.

Supporting hunger relief organizations – and the communities they serve

I’m also proud to announce that we’re contributing financial support as well. Since the COVID-19 crisis began, Googlers have stepped up – giving more than $22 million in personal donations and company-match to hunger relief organizations in the U.S. Today, Google is contributing an additional $2 million in support ($1 million in cash funding and $1 million in donated ads from Google.org) to 20 food banks, pantries and innovative hunger relief organizations across the country.

There is no easy solution to these large-scale challenges that face our communities, but I’m hopeful that increasing access to information about local food support programs and services can help. Our teams are hard at work and committed to building new tools and features that support economic recovery in the U.S. – and around the world – as we weather the COVID-19 crisis. And I personally am really looking forward to getting back to sorting and distributing food with my family at our local food bank.

You can make an impact by volunteering your time, making a donation, using your voice, or a combination of each — there are a number of ways we can all give back. If you need a place to start, you can donate to the largest national network of food banks, Feeding America. Or you can get involved locally: just search for your nearest food pantry on Google and contact them to see what they need. And if you know someone who might need food assistance, you can simply help by sharing resources. Spreading the word not only about what you’re doing to help, but why can make a huge difference.

Helping nonprofits fundraise this season of giving

In 2020, people in the U.S. donated an estimated $2.5 billion on Giving Tuesday alone. To help connect nonprofits with people who are searching for ways to give their time and resources, Google.org will donate $25 million in ads to nonprofits around the world.

These grants are incremental to the baseline $10,000 per month Ad Grant offering and will go to nonprofits focused on humanitarian response, food insecurity and economic recovery. For example, organizations like Direct Relief may use the incremental Ad Grants to attract more donors who are searching on Google for ways to help vulnerable populations, while SCORE may use the grants to connect people looking for ways to volunteer on Google with an opportunity to sign up to be a small business mentor.

Google.org awards over $1 billion in Ad Grants annually to qualifying nonprofits. Last Giving Season, many organizations that received incremental Ad Grants, like Houston Food Bank, more than doubled the donations they raised as compared to similar organizations receiving the baseline Ad Grant. After receiving incremental Ad Grants in 2020, Houston Food Bank saw a fourfold increase in total donations from their campaigns — raising $130,000 in donations in a single month.

“We've had to work with quickness and efficiency to reach out to those who need us most,” said Jessica Dominguez, Annual Giving Manager at Houston Food Bank.“The easiest way for people to donate and find their closest food location is to turn to the web. The Ad Grant gave us the opportunity to reach these people and provide them with the right information.”

In addition to these incremental grants, all eligible organizations may sign up to receive $10,000 per month in Ad Grants and apply for pro bono account support through Google’s Nonprofit Marketing Immersion.

Happy giving!

Helping European small businesses grow and succeed

Today marks the beginning of the European SME week, a time to recognize the contribution that millions of small and medium-sized businesses make to Europe’s economy, as well as an opportunity to explore how they can be supported to continue to grow and thrive.

This time of year is especially critical for small businesses. Shoppers really care about supporting their local communities, with 56% of holiday shoppers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa saying they will intentionally shop more at local small businesses this festive season.

Small businesses are the key to recovery from the pandemic, and our digital tools have helped them sustain their business through lockdowns and enable new jobs, growth and exports. That’s why we rapidly adapted products to improve support and provided training to help them make the most of digital technology. Supporting small businesses is a group effort, though — and the right skills and tools need to be underpinned by the right policies.

Providing helpful tools to connect with customers

The past year and a half has underlined the importance of technology in all parts of life — and small businesses are no exception. Research has found that small businesses in Europe with a sophisticated use of digital tools were able to build a ‘digital safety net’ during the pandemic, resulting in 80% better sales and 60% better revenue.

One example of this is the German company, das schöne leben. Opened in 2016, the store specializes in exceptional food and designer products for everyday living. When the pandemic hit, the founders of the store started advertising online alongside their in-store sales, and set up a Business Profile on Google Search and Maps to help existing and potential customers find them. Das schöne leben now has customers of all ages throughout Germany and has tripled their direct online orders with their first in-house search campaign.

A smiling picture of Manon Weßels, the owner of das schöne leben

Manon Weßels, owner of das schöne leben

Particularly for smaller businesses, Google Ads is the key for visibility and findability online. We would never have reached so many suitable new customers without the advertisements. Manon Weßels
Owner, das schöne leben

The example of das schöne leben and countless others show that online ads help businesses of all sizes find audiences they otherwise may lack access to, help them enter new markets and help build brand awareness.

At Google, we continue to innovate and invest in making all our products and tools more helpful — launching more than 200 features since March 2020 to help businesses connect with their customers in this shifting landscape.

We're also making it even easier for small businesses to manage their presence and connect with customers online. Businesses in Europe can now easily claim and verify their Business Profile directly on Google Search or the Google Maps app, and respond to messages directly from Search. Having more complete information online can have a huge impact for businesses: in Germany, for example, complete Business Profiles receive an average of over five times more calls compared to an incomplete profile. Moving forward, we recommend small businesses manage their profiles directly on Search or Maps. To keep things simple, “Google My Business” is being renamed “Google Business Profile.”

Ensuring that SMBs have the skills to get ahead

We know that providing the right tools is only helpful if businesses are able to use them. To make the most of the digital opportunities available to them, business owners need the right skills. Research has found that 22% of small business owners feel they lack the skills and knowledge to increase their use of digital tools.

Today, we are delighted to kick off our first-ever ‘Google.org Skills Week’ to help support select nonprofits mentoring thousands of underserved small business owners in Europe through scaled tech solutions. As a recent study highlights, medium, small and micro-enterprises — especially those led by women, young people, ethnic minorities, and migrants — were significantly impacted by COVID-19 with 70-80% facing major financial difficulties.

During this week, Google volunteers and product experts will share their skills and best practices through workshops, design sprints and 1:1 mentorship, to help educate select nonprofits that provide mentorship to underserved SMB owners. This week of training touches on many different skills including product management, design, marketing and AdGrants, Artificial Intelligence, YouTube, impact measurement, and aims to better equip the nonprofits to help small businesses improve their online presence.

We have seen how powerful these skills can be in helping to grow and scale businesses across Europe.

For Andrea Li Puma, the owner of the food truck Pastammore based in Bucharest, access to digital skills was essential to reach new customers and grow his business. The pandemic meant that Andrea had to take his food business online and pivot to deliver Pastammore’s homemade pasta directly to consumers at home. With support from Google.org-funded nonprofit Digital Nation, Andrea was able to develop an online marketing strategy, optimize his website, and launch new advertising campaigns that helped Pastammore survive through the tough period and even grow with sales increase by 15%.

A picture of Andrea Li Puma, the owner of the food truck Pastammore based in Bucharest, in a white coat in front of his truck

Andrea Li Puma, owner of food truck Pastammore in Bucharest

Since 2015, over 18 million people across Europe, the Middle East and Africa have participated in our Grow with Google training, resulting in more than four million people getting a new job, growing their career or growing their business*.

To make sure our programs best help tackle the barriers to digital success, we developed partnerships with training experts, public agencies and policy makers. For example, in France we collaborate with FFAC — French Association of Local Stores — in supporting 30,000 local shop owners everywhere in France in their digital transition.

A more inclusive economic recovery

The pandemic has been disruptive and small businesses have been at the sharp end of this change. While challenging, this past year and a half has also underlined how resilient small businesses can thrive through partnership, openness and innovation. Europe has a great opportunity to build a digital, inclusive, and sustainable recovery that works for everyone. We are excited to play our part in this.

*Analysis by Google based on internal data and a survey by Ipsos from Sep 2016 to Sep 2021 amongst EMEA residents trained via Digital Workshop.

How we’re building for transgender communities

Understanding gender can be a lifelong journey for many folks. Coming out as trans or nonbinary can include a lot of changes, including the use of different pronouns or a different name, or physical changes. None of this is easy. Something as simple as seeing an old photo of yourself can be painful if it doesn’t match who you are now on your journey.

We heard directly from members of the transgender, nonbinary, and gender expansive (GE) communites on this issue. To learn how we could help make reminiscing with Google Photos more inclusive, we worked with trans and gender expansive users and brought in our partners at GLAAD.

Working with GLAAD, we conducted qualitative research interviews with trans individuals and community leaders. These focus groups, along with our own transgender community at Google, played an important role in shaping how Memories in Google Photos works. We learned that control over Memories would be necessary and that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.

Image showing three quotes from feedback participants. Quote one says: “A lot of our lives are survival and making people who make us uncomfortable, comfortable with us.”; Quote two says: “Even the ugly things I have gratitude for. We’re always what we need to be, regardless of whether you feel ready or not. When I look at the past, it reminds me of that, the resiliency and the ability to overcome what you thought was impossible.” Quote three says: “This can give someone a sense of control, a sense of autonomy. And they’re not just being bombarded with things they don’t want to see.”

Some of the feedback we received from focus group participants.

To give you control, we made it possible to hide photos of certain people or time periods from our Memories feature. And soon you’ll be able to remove a single photo from a Memory, rename a Memory, or remove it entirely. We’re making all these controls easy to find, so you can make changes in just a few taps.

In addition to the work we are doing to make Google Photos more inclusive, we wanted to make sure we are also supporting non-profits that directly serve the transgender community. Google.org is giving cash grants to such organizations that are providing critical services and resources directly to transgender and GE communities across the globe. Some of the organizations included are the Transgender Law Center, Trans Lifeline and Transgender & Intersex Africa.

Google.org is proud to support the transgender and GE communities in our broader work on gender equity too. As part of the Google.org Impact Challenge Women and Girls, we recently announced financial support for both Reprograma and TransTech Social, organizations that are focused on helping members of the community reach their full economic potential and thrive.

In addition, Google.org continues to donate Search Ads and enable Googler volunteer efforts to benefit organizations like Transgender Law Center, Reprograma, and Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund. This enables these LGBTQ+ nonprofits to advocate for the Trans Agenda for Liberation, direct community members to pro bono legal resources, provide direct aid to transgender people in need and raise critical funds to advance transgender equality.

We hope the changes to Google Photos make it better for everyone, and that the work we’re doing with these organizations can truly impact the transgender community. There’s still more to do, but we’re committed to doing this work together.

34 organizations lifting up women and girls around the world

"Our program trains and lifts women who never thought they could rise," says Mariel Reyes Milk. Mariel is the CEO of Reprograma, which teaches computer programming to Black and transgender women in Brazil. Reprograma is one of the 34 organizations receiving funding and additional support from the Google.org Impact Challenge for Women and Girls. Though the mission of each organization is unique, they share a common goal to create economic opportunities that lift up women and girls around the world.

In March, recognizing that COVID-19 was quickly widening the gender equity gap, Google.org put out a $25 million call for project proposals to economically empower women and girls. The response was greater than we have seen for any other Google.org Impact Challenge, with 7,800 applications coming in from more than 160 countries.

With the help of anall star panel of female experts and our Impact Challenge partners, Vital Voices and Project Everyone, we narrowed the field to 34. Their solutions help women and girls, especially those from geographically, economically or socially marginalized populations, reach their full economic potential, and in doing so, strengthen the well-being of entire communities.

Moving forward, recipients will participate in a four-month Google accelerator program led by our Women Techmaker community and supported by Vital Voices. Select organizations will also receive a Google.org Fellowship and donated ads to promote their mission.

You can learn more about our selected organizations on our Impact Challenge website. I am so thrilled Google.org is supporting these organizations in their work to improve the lives of women and girls around the world. The organizations are pretty excited, too.

Vote for a Google.org Impact Challenge Bay Area winner

As someone who was born and raised in the Bay Area, I know nonprofits are the true backbone of our community. They help us tackle our most pressing challenges and are the lifelines for community in our moment of need. Growing up, I spent time volunteering at Martin De Porres House of Hospitality and St. Vincent De Paul Soup Kitchen where I witnessed the impact a meal can have for those whose dignity is constantly questioned. These experiences inspired and motivated me to find a career path that would allow me to help empower organizations to change my community’s circumstances.

At Google.org, we believe that community organizations most closely connected to those in need can offer solutions to rebuild a better, more equitable Bay Area — especially as we continue to deal with the pandemic’s impact. For over 20 years, Google has called the Bay Area home and has granted over $420 million to local nonprofits; I’m proud that we’re consistently one of the largest donors in the region and that we’re building on our impact today.

Google.org’s Impact Challenge Bay Area includes $10 million in grants to 35 nonprofits, and, today, we’re sharing the top ten finalists that are eligible for the Public Choice award. These organizations are committed to efforts centered on housing and homelessness, improving access to education, offering resources for families in need, rethinking criminal justice, and so much more.

Top ten finalists: Brilliant Corners, creating a flexible housing subsidy pool to house 1,000+ of SF’s unhoused residents; Young Women’s Freedom Center, ending incarceration for young women in Santa Clara County; Code Nation, providing coding education and career prep for low-income high school students; College Track, creating a STEM education and career success program for first-generation students from low-income families; Compass Family Services, providing roving, on-demand mental health services for homeless families; UpTogether, helping build the financial and social capital of 500+ Bay Area residents; Homebase, streamlining systems of care and regional partnerships for data-driven impact; One Degree, building the first common application for public benefits and services; Somos Mayfair, developing a community-driven model to re-define land use and development in San Jose; The Kelsey, advancing disability-forward housing solutions that increase inclusion and opportunity in the Bay Area.

Throughout the last year and a half, we’ve seen many of our grantees step up in our communities and transform their operations to continue delivering vital services — from helping people access life-saving resources during the pandemic to rebuilding cities more equitably. Community-based organizations are critical safety nets.

Today, we’re entering the final phase of our Google.org Impact Challenge Bay Area. From November 1-14, the public can vote for the organization they believe should win the $1 million People’s Choice award. Once voting concludes, we'll announce the People’s Choice winner and the other four winners, which our panel of judges made up of local community leaders will select. The top ten finalists have each received $500,000, and five of these organizations have the opportunity to win an additional $500,000. Twenty-five other nonprofits each received $100,000 for their submission and work focused on rebuilding the Bay Area.

Now, it’s your turn to look into these organizations and vote for the one that you think most deserves the People’s Choice award.

A Matter of Impact: October updates from Google.org

Note: For this edition, Jacquelline Fuller is passing the pen to her colleague Hector Mujica, who leads our Economic Opportunity work, to share more about how we approach skill building and recent support from Google.org to honor Hispanic Heritage Month.

One of our goals is to help people — especially those without college degrees — gain the skills they need to pursue in-demand, higher-paying careers. This is a topic that is deeply personal to me, as a Latino in tech, and that is important to Google, as a company that strives to create greater equity and access to opportunity — particularly for underserved communities.

We know that 80% of middle-class jobs in the U.S. require a strong knowledge of digital skills, and that these jobs often pay better. That’s why we partner with nonprofit organizations to help them bring digital skilling solutions to historically underserved and excluded people, like the Latino community. We support organizations like the Hispanic Federation and Per Scholas to use solutions, like the Google Career Certificate and other digital skill training programs, that help job seekers gain the right skills to land jobs in the digital economy. These organizations provide not only training, but also the wraparound support needed to make sure participants can access jobs and success at them.

There’s not a single solution to tackle these economic challenges. In an effort to advance the dialog and create fulfilling opportunities for all, we’re also supporting research to unpack how to best support Latino digital inclusion in the workforce with organizations like [email protected] and Aspen Institute’s Latino and Society Program.

In case you missed it 

To mark Hispanic Heritage Month (which runs September 15-October 15), we’re announcing a $1M grant to the Latino Community Foundation’s Latino Entrepreneur Fund to support Latino micro-entrepreneurs across rural and urban communities in California; and donating $1M+ in ads to participants in a new Latino Founders Fund, helping them reach new audiences and address funding inequities. We’re also supporting Latinos searching for jobs: we announced a $1 million reinvestment in the Hispanic Federation.

Hear from one of our grantees: Hispanic Federation

Frankie Miranda is the President and CEO of the Hispanic Federation. Their mission is to empower the Latino community by increasing the capacity of Latino-led and Latino-serving community-based organizations (CBOs) with funding, technical assistance and a resource sharing network.

A few words with a Google.org Fellow: Rosalva Gallardo

Rosalva Gallardo is a Program Manager for Google Shopping.

Media literacy training for Southeast Asian communities

Forty million people in Southeast Asia started using the internet for the first time in 2020. Yet the level of media literacy in the region remains relatively low. Often, people in Southeast Asia lack the skills to interpret the information they encounter online — and efforts to change this have historically been fragmented and under-resourced.

As we mark 10 years since UNESCO’s first Global Media and Information Literacy Week, we want to ensure more Southeast Asians — especially first-time users — can navigate the internet with confidence. Today, we announced a $1.5 million grant from Google.org to help the ASEAN Foundation expand media literacy education in the 10 countries that make up the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The goal is to equip more than 1,000 trainers with new skills and materials, enabling them to provide training for more than 100,000 people — from young people to older internet users — over the next two years.

In addition to the Google.org grant, Google employees plan to volunteer their time and technical expertise to the ASEAN Foundation and its beneficiaries.

We know strengthening media literacy has to be a collective effort, and at today’s ASEAN Digital Literacy Forum — the first event of its kind in the region — we joined 200 representatives from governments, academia, and nonprofit organizations to discuss the most effective ways to address online misinformation.

We’re doing a lot with technology itself, from raising up authoritative websites in Google Search to creating better tools for fact-checkers. But the most sustainable way forward involves the public, private and nonprofit sectors working together to give people the knowledge they need.

Alt text: An excerpt from Google’s media literacy comic book, with a young woman in glasses reading advice on a laptop about spotting misinformation using the mnemonic SHEEP: source, history, evidence, promotion, pictures.

As part of the ASEAN Digital Literacy Forum, we launched a comic book to illustrate how misinformation can spread, and what to do to prevent it.

It’s also critical that we understand the local environment and tailor solutions to the specific challenges communities are facing — a principle that’s guided Google’s partnerships across Southeast Asia. In Indonesia, we partnered with MAFINDO to develop a web drama series that educated viewers about debunking misinformation in a family setting, before running hands-on workshops for 5,000 people. And in the Philippines, we helped the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication create teaching tools and training for almost 300 senior high school teachers. That included videos showing ”a day in the life” of a local journalist and news report-style videos to contextualize news literacy — efforts that ultimately reached close to 40,000 students. At today’s Forum, together with the ASEAN Foundation, we launched a comic book to illustrate how misinformation can spread, and what to do to prevent it.

Misinformation is multifaceted and the challenges it creates are constantly evolving. Whether it’s updating Google and YouTube product policies, elevating the work of fact-checkers, or supporting organizations like ASEAN Foundation, we’re going to keep doing everything we can to help advance media literacy in Southeast Asia and beyond.

Inspiring 1.4 million students to learn computer science

For many of the challenges our world faces — like access to healthcare and climate change — technology will be part of the solution. For those solutions to affect change, the technologists behind them should be reflective of everyone. However, in the U.S. today 26% of computing professionals are women, 8% are Hispanic and 9% are Black.

Access to education is at the root of this inequity. Girls, historically underrepresented groups and students from small and rural towns are less likely to have the opportunity to build interest and confidence in computer science and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills. To help make sure every student has the chance to build confidence and interest in computer science, 4-H, an organization working to give all youth equal access to opportunity, with Google.org support, created the Computer Science Pathway. This program teaches technical subjects — like data analytics and robotics — and equips students with essential life skills — like problem-solving and leadership.

In 2019, 4-H and Google.org set a goal that with Google.org’s support, 4-H would introduce one million students to computer science within three years. Members of our own Code with Google team assisted the National 4-H Council and local 4-H chapter leaders to pilot, train and iterate for several months to help establish the foundations of the Computer Science Pathway program. Fast forward to now, just two years later, and 4-H has already reached over 1.4 million students. Of those 1.4 million, 47% are from historically underrepresented groups in computer science, 65% live in rural areas and 56% of teen leaders for the program are girls.

These numbers represent real kids finding their voice, discovering a brighter future and realizing their dreams.

  • Aubree from Utah is using her newfound voice to encourage educators to offer computer science in their schools. “I am only the beginning of a long list of students,” says Aubree. “My greatest hope is that I will never be the end.”
  • Jeffery from South Carolina says the program inspired him to reach for a brighter future. “I want to become a Computer Engineer and create innovation that improves our daily lives.”
  • Aja from Illinois was looking for a place to belong as a student with learning difficulties. Now, she has her very own organization, See Me in STEM, to empower minority youth to get involved in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. “4-H inspired me to be the change I wanted to see.”

Throughout this journey, the 4-H team brought together nonprofits, businesses, community leaders and schools to create an inclusive and impactful computer science program for all ages across 50 states. For others looking to create computer science programs, here are a few things 4-H learned to help each and every student achieve their potential.

  1. Teach life skills, create career pathways, and provide ongoing mentorship to make computer science skills relevant.
  2. Develop equitable, accessible and inclusive content. Weave in teachings to relevant topics or existing student interests, partner with community organizations and invest in a technology lending infrastructure.
  3. Invest in your staff and volunteers. Provide regular training sessions, build a strong community culture and hire full-time employees with experience in computer science and proven approaches to engage youth.

As a 4-H alum myself, I’m proud to celebrate this incredible milestone and achievement toward equitable education and opportunities. We believe that the Computer Science Pathway, and the 4-H team’s thoughtful evaluation and collected learnings, will help make the future brighter — not just for the students who participate, but for their communities and the world as a whole. As we face global challenges, we’ll need the best and brightest out there solving them.